What to Do With an Old Oil Tank

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An old oil tank on your property can pose a lot of problems. Old oil tanks are susceptible to rust and leaks, which can contaminate surrounding soil and require you to report the leak to the government and pay for clean up, which will can possibly lower the value of your property. The best alternative is to remove or abandon oil tanks successfully.


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Removing Fuel Oil Tanks

If the oil tank is above ground or located in basement or building, then it can be removed. Unfortunately, these tanks tend to hold hundreds of gallons of oil and can cost thousands of dollars to professionally remove. If you feel up to removing the tank yourself, be sure to be very careful and take every precaution, because even emptying the oil can be unwieldy and dangerous.

The first step is to drain and clean the tank completely. All oil filings and oil residue should be removed if possible, and running an industrial car cleaner or similar solution is not a bad idea. To remove the oil tank yourself, you will need to cut it apart using a sawzall or similar tool. Depending on the state you live in, you may need to get permission to perform this process, which can involve documentation and one or more inspections of the work.


Once all the oil has been drained (making sure there are no spills or leaks), you can begin the cutting process. The sparks and hot metal filings can ignite leftover oil as you cut, which is why it is important to remove all traces of oil. Unfortunately, an oil-fire is still a real possibility, and you should always work with a fire extinguisher close by. Once the tank is cut into manageable pieces, you can call a local dump or the city and request that someone come out and pick up the pieces.

Abandonment Procedures

If your old oil tank is located underground, you will have to go through the process of abandonment, regardless of whether you decide to take the tank out or leave it in the ground and fill it with blocking material. Specific laws can be found out with a phone call to the state or town officials, but in general you must notify the authorities at least 30 days before you abandon the tank. It is also very important that you test the surrounding soil for oil contamination. Government authorities prefer a couple years worth of documentation, but this is rarely possible, so be sure to present what evidence you have. Samples can be sent to labs for complete testing.


If the soil is contaminated, you will need to go through a lengthy clean-up and removal process. If it is not, then you can safely drain the tank, making sure to remove all sludge and oil residue. An inspection is required before you fill the tank in, but if you are allowed to then simple sand is usually sufficient as a filling material.